HEAVEN OR HELL ISSUE? $5

With some people just about everything that comes up, they consider a heaven or hell issue.  If you don’t measure up in your beliefs or actions to the standards they have either heard or developed then you are headed to hell in their view and their view seldom changes on anything.  Other folks are on the other extreme and really don’t see anything as a heaven or hell issue.  In their minds everything goes and if it feels good or seems right just do it.  Both extremes are equally wrong.  One turns you into a Pharisee and the other into a Sadducee.  We are called to become like Jesus who couldn’t get along well with either one.  It is obvious from Matthew 23 that Jesus was certain that both sides of these were headed to hell if they didn’t make some major changes in their lives.

We’ve launched the study of Romans 14 that specifically deals with matters of conscience that could be a heaven or hell issue for the individual but was never to be made into a heaven or hell issue for everyone.  Paul made the point strongly that each person is to do what they believe is right but not judge the ones who differ and that the church shouldn’t allow the weakness of ones who are bothered by things that really aren’t wrong to become the standard for the church.  Everyone that has preached for long is familiar with the person who declares the church shouldn’t do this particular thing, such as singing during the communion because it bothers my conscience.  Why don’t you just not sing and not try to strain everyone through your conscience?

From there Paul begins in verse 13 of Romans 14 to draw some “Therefore’s”.  Let’s see what some are.  “Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another.  Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.  I am convinced, being fully persuade in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself.  But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean.  If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love.  Do not by your eating destroy someone for whom Christ died.  Therefore do not let what you know is good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval.”  (13-18)

Focus on the points he made.  First, Just stop the judging of others.  You have the right to judge your actions but not those of others.  God is judge and he knows all.  Just trust his judgment and leave it to him.  Second, make up your mind not to cause another to stumble.  Many things are right in our life that just need to be left alone because they can lead another to fall away.  I’m not talking about some little silly notion.  But if a thing endangers the soul of another we need to be compassionate enough to forego things that we know is all right.  There are many limits to how far this should go.  For example, when Paul took Titus the gentile preacher with him to Jerusalem, there arose a huge discussion about circumcision and whether it was bound on the Christian.  Many tried to convince Paul and Titus that he should be circumcised.  Many probably said, “It offends us for you to not be circumcised.  So that you won’t lead anyone to fall you need to be circumcised.”  Paul knew they were trying to make a law where God hadn’t made one.  He said in Galatians two that he “Gave in to them, no, not for a moment.”  To keep from offending a weak brother or sister we should be willing to forego some things that are right.  But we should never give in to someone who is trying to make a law for God.  That was what was going on in I Timothy 4 when many were speaking lies in hypocrisy and following demons as guides.  They were “Forbidding to marry and commanding to abstain from meats that God had made to be consumed.”  It isn’t wrong to not marry but to make a law that you can’t is dead wrong.  It isn’t wrong to be a vegetarian but to declare as a law of God that everyone should be is completely wrong.

Third, in Jesus nothing is unclean in itself.  He is discussing matters like foods that were under consideration.  This statement shouldn’t be taken to say that nothing is wrong if you just don’t think it is or do it with the right attitude.  Read Galatians 5:19-21 as to the works of the flesh and you will see there are some things that are completely wrong always.  But there are no foods that are unclean.  Whether it is pork and catfish that the Jews would have considered unclean or the food that had first been offered as a sacrifice to some idol god.  Everything is clean of itself.  So don’t allow what you know is good be spoken of as evil.  When you know something is right and people are trying to bind things on others that God didn’t bind, stand up and be counted.  It is a crying shame when people in a church will make laws of their own in matters the Bible says nothing about and thus drive folks away from the church and from God because of declaring something unclean God says is clean.

Fourth, God’s kingdom isn’t about food and drink.  It isn’t about any such silly topics that have nothing to do with the heart of the person or their devotion and worship to God.  Some things in life are simply insignificant and whether or not you do them or have some set way of doing them doesn’t matter a whit.  God’s kingdom is about righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.  Notice he then gave a “BECAUSE”!  “Because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval.”  Think this through with me please.  God’s kingdom, his reign and rule in our life, the body that lives under his guidance and control is to be about RIGHTEOUSNESS.   Right living?  Yes we are to strive to live right and be obedient to him as described in Romans 6:16-17.  But also right relationship gained by Christ’s righteousness being applied to our life.  According to Romans 4 he took our sins upon himself and died for us and applied his righteousness to us so that we have an imputed righteousness in him.  Also the kingdom is about peace.  A fussing church is from the devil in hell and he has freely drawn in brethren who think they are doing God service.  Our endeavor is to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  Then the kingdom is about joy in the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit in us produces joy as fruit.  He brings joy in forgiveness, relationship with God and with other believers.  He brings joy in fellowship and worship to him.  His church is to be a place of joy that draws people into it with that spirit of joy.

Finally, he said when we follow this plan of action that emphasizes peace, joy and righteousness it pleases God.  When we recognize that all that he made is clean it pleases God.  When we care so much for each other that we will forego things we know are all right to do to keep from causing another to stumble it pleases God.  But it also is pleasing to other people.  Think of the kind of people in life that are drawn to a church that is always nitpicking and fussing about something.  Would you want to spend eternity with such folks?  People of all kinds long for a place of love, peace, and joy in the Spirit of God.  They look for a place where people are trying to live right and when they mess up they freely and quickly correct it.  That kind of church pleases God and draws people.  That sounds pretty good doesn’t it?

About leoninlittlerock

Preaching minister for Central church of Christ in Little Rock. Author of over 20 books including: When a Loved one Dies, Spiritual Development, Skid Marks on the Family Drive, Challenges in the church, To Know Christ and A Drink of Living Water.
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